The Canticle of Brother Sun by Francis of Assisi (1181/2-October 4, 1226)
Background information: The last two years of Francis’ life were marked by severe physical pain and suffering, due in part to the austere ascetical practices he followed and no doubt compounded by his “gift” of the stigmata (received during September, 1224). It was during this period of intense physical suffering (probably during the spring or summer of 1225) that Francis composed this lyrical hymn of praise (at least the first 22 lines). How such a joyous work would emerge during this period is intriguing. The joy that would derive from the presence of God that apparently suffused his consciousness by this time in his life offers some explanation. An additional insight might be available in a report in the (apocryphal?) Writings of the Three Companions [Leo, Rufino, and Angelo] that states that during a particularly trying bout of suffering, Francis received a divine message that his salvation was assured. It would be hard to imagine anything more joyous for any Christian, no matter what the circumstances.
Can you see the calling upon the sun, moon, and stars to be evoking the first chapter of Genesis? How does it fit within the Bonaventurian vision of reality? What does the expression “bears the signification of you” (l. 9) suggest to you?
Francis refers to “Brother Wind” (l. 12), “Sister Water” (l. 14), “Brother Fire” (l. 17), and “Mother Earth” (l. 20). Why does he refer to precisely these features of the cosmos? What does his use of these elements suggest for his sense of God’s presence?